Los Angeles refinery burns, supplies seen hit

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Tuesday April 24 12:54 AM ET Los Angeles Refinery Burns, Supplies Seen Hit

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A spectacular fire at a major oil refinery outside Los Angeles sent huge plumes of thick black smoke billowing over three cities on Monday, forcing about 100,000 residents indoors and threatening a huge spike in California gas prices.

The blaze -- in a cracking unit of the 125,000 barrel per day Tosco Corp. refinery in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson -- was extinguished after three hours but hot spots and some ground fires remained, a Los Angeles County Sheriff's spokesman said.

A company spokesman was not immediately available for comment. A Sheriff's spokesman said he assumed the plant would be closed until the fire was completely out and it was safe for people to return.

About 100,000 residents in three cities -- Carson, Wilmington and Long Beach -- were told to stay indoors with their windows closed but by mid-evening that ban was lifted.

No injuries were reported in the blaze, which broke out shortly before 5 p.m. Tosco is the largest independent refiner and marketer of petroleum products in the United States. The cracking unit is used to break down fuel oil and is one of the major processes in turning crude oil into gasoline.

Major streets surrounding the refinery were closed off. Gasoline industry analysts said the accident came at the worst possible time, the start of the summer driving season.

They said the blaze would likely cause a sharp spike in California gasoline prices, perhaps pushing them to record levels by the start of summer.

-- Swissrose (cellier3@mindspring.com), April 24, 2001

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